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April 01, 2006  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

SBF's Top 10 Maintenance Programs for 2006

School bus maintenance workers are often the unsung heroes of transportation departments. In our fifth annual edition of the Top 10, we again recognize the hard work and dedication put forth by America's school bus maintenance staffs.

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A ship-shape, efficient shop

Carl Junction R-1 School District — Carl Junction, Mo.

When it comes to years of experience with a school bus maintenance program, Ron Daniel is tough to beat. Carl Junction (Mo.) R-1 School District’s head technician began his career in the transportation department in 1973 — while he was still in high school.

Daniel signed on as an assistant to his father, who was the district’s bus mechanic at the time. When his father passed away in 1986, Daniel took over as head mechanic. Since then, he has helmed a highly rated, highly efficient shop.

“The entire maintenance program evolved and revolves around Ron’s ideas,” says Transportation Supervisor Woody Shoemaker. “He does an outstanding job.”

Daniel is currently the only full-time shop guy. The department also employs a part-time wash person, and during the month before bus inspections, a part-time helper is brought on board.

Perhaps the most distinct sign of the success of Daniel’s program is the inspection ratings it has earned. In the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s annual examinations, Carl Junction buses have passed at 100 percent for the past nine years straight. In 18 out of the past 19 years, the buses have scored 90 percent or better.

Daniel oversees a fleet of 37 buses, all but six of which are air-brake-equipped, front-engine Blue Bird Type Ds. The shop is air conditioned and includes four bays (one of which is a wash bay), a tool room, two offices and facilities for drivers. Daniel says there is no oil, grease or clutter to be found on the floor, which shines because of its waxed surface.

Carl Junction’s preventive maintenance program brings buses into the shop for oil change, lube and inspection every 2,000 miles. “Any small hint of a future problem, such as a seeping hydraulic hose, a little black around the exhaust seal, a worn belt, etc., is taken care of immediately,” Daniel says.

Daniel keeps maintenance costs down in a number of ways. One is by utilizing the district’s 10,000-gallon diesel tank. “In our smaller operation, we can go for quite a while on a full tank,” Daniel says. “This gives me a chance to shop around and to buy fuel during the lower price periods.”

Fleet Facts

  • Fleet composition: 37 buses, 43 vehicles total
  • Total shop staff: 1 full-time mechanic, 1 part-time wash person, 1 part-time helper in month before inspections
  • Number of bus bays: 4
  • Annual mileage: 275,000
  • Students transported: 1,600
  • Schools served: 8



    Aging fleet requires top efficiency

    Columbus Public Schools — Columbus, Ohio

    Maintaining an aging fleet in an environment of increasing costs and flinty budgets is the challenge being successfully met at Columbus Public Schools.

    With more than 700 vehicles, including 543 buses, to keep in top operating shape, the shop staff of 38 draws on experience, training and teamwork to get the job done.

    This is an especially difficult task because the average bus is 12 years old. “We have 271 buses that are 17 years old or older,” says Steve Simmons, operations supervisor of the fleet services department. “Our plan is to replace 38 buses a year, but this is very difficult to do with the high cost of fuel and limited dollars available.”

    In the meantime, technicians at the district’s four maintenance facilities maximize their resourcefulness to get the job done. Their efficiency is tracked using CCG Systems” FASTER, a computerized system that tracks maintenance activity. Technicians log their work orders into the system, allowing supervisors to track the status of repairs in real time through a network connecting the four shops. “This allows us to account for 100 percent of our parts and labor,” Simmons says.

    Computers help to organize and analyze essential information, but another key to the district’s success is teamwork, which can’t be accomplished with a laptop. “Our guys help each other when needed with no questions asked,” says Phil Downs, fleet supervisor. “There have been times when one bus compound may be backed up. Instead of ignoring this shop, the others pitch in to help get the buses repaired. They are a true team.”

    An emphasis on training and education helps to keep the technicians up to speed. Training classes are held each summer, and manufacturers are invited to provide training on everything from wheelchair lifts to multiplex wiring.

    In addition, technicians are encouraged to obtain ASE certification. In fact, supervisors are required to have ASE master truck certifications, and some have multiple master certifications in bus and auto.

    Fleet Facts

  • Fleet composition: 543 buses, 718 vehicles total
  • Total shop staff: 38
  • Number of bus bays: 15
  • Annual mileage: 8.7 million
  • Students transported: 32,000
  • Schools served: 142
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